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Penfolds. Glenfiddich. Calais. Three things that seemingly get better with age… I’m talking about the 2017 Holden Calais V V6, not the coastal French city.
Unfortunately this is the last buyers will see of the Aussie-made Holden Calais, but it’s not the last locals will see of the badge: the Calais nameplate will be carried over to the new-generation ZB model, with some similarities.
For example, there’ll be a V6 version of the new Calais, much like the car you see here. The current 2017 VF Series II model has a 3.6-litre V6 with 210kW of power and 350Nm of torque, a six-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive; but the new-generation model’s 3.6-litre engine will pump out 230kW/370Nm, will have a nine-speed auto, and all-wheel-drive. There’ll also be a Calais Turbo next time around – well, it mightn’t be called that, but it’ll pack a 2.0-litre turbo engine and be front-drive.
Anyway, let’s not get too distracted by what’s coming, because this Calais V V6 is certainly not a low point for the badge – it clearly can't be, since they even added the Calais name to the rear doors. It’s one of the most convincing versions of the Calais ever offered, in fact.
It’s a fair bit of car for $48,750 plus on-road costs, considering what else you can get for around this much money. A small high-spec European sedan, like an Audi A3? Or a high-grade mainstream Japanese sedan, like a Honda Accord?
That said, if a current-generation Calais was on our shopping list, it wouldn’t be the V6 I’d be choosing, with the 6.2-litre V8 making a very strong case for itself, even if it is a sizeable step up – $8000.
Indeed, this Calais V V6 is the type of car that will appeal to a certain type of buyer – perhaps a financially conscious businessperson, one who wants some of the finer things in life but who won’t take the plunge on something a bit more expensive. And hey, one of those smaller Euro models won’t be able to fit the golf clubs or the grandkids quite as easily, either.
The space on offer is something Australian buyers have come to know and expect from anything in the Holden Commodore/Calais range, and the final Aussie-made version doesn’t disappoint in that regard.
It is superbly spacious in the second row, with more than enough leg-, head- and toe-room for two adults, and easily enough shoulder-room to squeeze in a third. The seat is comfortable, and there are rear air vents to keep things comfortable, not to mention dual ISOFIX and three top-tether child-seat anchor-points for little ones.
Up front the comfort is pretty good, too, with sculpted leather seats with heating and electric adjustment, but no lumbar support. The update for 2017 model cars saw an auto-dimming rear-view mirror fitted, along with sill plates emblazoned with the "V" from Calais V, and a perforated leather-trimmed steering wheel.
The big Holden sedan has always had thoughtful storage, with large door pockets all around, good cupholders between the front seats, map pockets in the back and a flip-down centre armrest in the back (no cupholders back there, though). The boot is generous, at 496 litres – easily enough for the clubs or a couple of weekend bags – and there's a full-size spare under the floor.
Some of the materials leave a bit to be desired – the plastics on the dash are a bit rubbish compared to what we've come to expect from competitors such as the Volkswagen Passat or Skoda Superb, for instance. And the Holden MyLink media system, with its 8.0-inch touchscreen, is both good and bad, as well.
It is reasonably quick to jump between screens, but we had no end of trouble with the Bluetooth system – it took quite a while to initialise a connection, and then when you stop the car and re-start it, the system wouldn’t automatically reconnect. At times it would take up to five minutes to reconnect, while in other instances it just didn’t reconnect at all. It is really annoying to be listening to your favourite album or podcast, duck into the servo or shops to grab something, and then turn return to the car, start it up, and not have that playback resume. Most cars do it.
There are some redeeming features, including the sunroof, built-in satellite navigation and voice control, as well as the clear rear-view camera display. There are other niceties such as dual-zone climate control, auto headlights and wipers, push-button start, smart keyless entry, and semi-automated parking.
Safety highlights for this variant include head-up display, forward collision warning (but not autonomous emergency braking) lane departure warning (but not active lane-keeping assist), rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, and six airbags (dual front, front side, full-length curtain).
The safety systems all seemed to operate well in testing, but we still think the basics – including the car's side mirrors – fall short of expectations. At least it lived up to its heritage on the open road.
Because this is the Calais V, not just the regular old Calais, it comes riding on stylish 19-inch alloy wheels clad in Bridgestone Turanza (245/40/19) rubber – but even so, it offers tremendous noise insulation on coarse-chip surfaces. Those tyres are nicely grippy, too, and the Calais is happy to push through long sweeping bends, and tighter twists don’t upset it, either.
A lot of that comes down to the steering, which is excellent, offering the driver assuredness in its accuracy and controllability without the out-and-out pinpoint sharpness of the sportier models in the Commodore range, and the suspension, which is perfectly suited to soaking up bumpy country roads, deals with urban lumps and bumps really well, too, considering the wheel size.
The V6 engine is fine, but nothing super-dooper special. It offers easily enough response when you plant your foot, and the six-speed automatic does a really good job of shuffling between gears on the open road, or around town. But we noticed some lumpiness to the way our car idled, and the odd sharp shift from the gearbox, too. An Aurion or Accord V6 offers more urgent response, and the mills in both of those sound better than this engine, too.
I could deal with lumpiness from the V6, but the performance, drama and noise doesn’t really justify it here.
That said, the Calais V V6 proved an efficient commuter. The claimed consumption, according to Holden, is 9.1 litres per 100 kilometres, and over my loop – including highway, urban, open road and spirited driving – I saw 9.2L/100km. Reasonable.
As for long-term ownership costs, the Calais V requires maintenance every nine months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. It’s backed by a lifetime capped-price servicing plan, with average costs – before any extras – working out to $271 over the first 45 months/75,000km. Holden backs its cars with a three-year/100,000km warranty plan.
There’s no denying the VF Commodore line-up, including this 2017 Holden Calais V V6, has aged well since its introduction. I don’t necessarily believe the value of a silver V6 large sedan will go up over time like a bottle of Grange in your cellar, but it could still be something nice to behold in your garage.
Click the Gallery tab above for more images by Sam Venn.